Music, My Stories, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Challenge To Believe

The challenge for today’s record labels is to undo everything that they have created or has happened over the last 50 years. The record labels arose as a way to get music out of its city venue limitations and into the greater world.

Once upon a time, many many many (to borrow from Commandant Lassard from Police Academy) wonderful record labels existed. However in time these record labels formed into mega corporations with the emphasis on lower costs and high profit margins. Smaller labels got taken over by medium sized labels and in time, medium sized labels got taken over by large sized labels. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, the labels employed people that figured out how to engineer processes and machines to drive productivity and profit.

The labels ruled the kingdom unchallenged until another corporation called social disruption reared its head.

It started with a technology called Napster and society showed the powerful record labels what they think of their high prices.

Today social disruption is real and growing and the mega labels don’t like it. It means that they have to step down from their thrones, and create real social human relationships. It means that the artists who used to be locked away and surrounded by enablers need to build personal relationships with their fans.

The ones that are failing to do it have already fallen by the wayside. The ones that achieved success during the gatekeeper controlled era of the record label are dabbling in it and then there are the ones who are just good at it.

Let’s see what the record labels are doing;

First lets get one thing out of the way. The record labels still serve a purpose. Most of the music I purchase or stream are from bands on a record label. However, they have dished out so much bad will in the last 20 years, it’s hard to be supportive.

In the last 10 years, the record labels have constantly stated that the “biggest threat” they face is continued copyright infringement. They point to research that shows how it is destroying businesses, employments and other sectors. They get people in the press and they get elected politicians on their side who believe those claims. Because, hey, big copyright monopoly companies said that copyright infringement is a threat so it must be a threat.

Did you know that Vivendi (owner of Universal Music) commissioned 23 reports and only 5 of those reports mentioned copyright infringement as a potential risk. Guess which reports got released to the public. Universal is also known as a robotic copyright enforcer. Go to Google and see their transparency report.

Did you know that Sony (Sony Music and Sony Pictures) commissioned 15 reports and only 2 of those reports mentioned copyright infringement as a potential risk. Did you know that in their recent annual report the company listed copyright infringement as a major risk to their business, however 13 reports out of 15 disagree.

The record labels seem to forget that humans need to belong. That is why we connect with family, artists, sporting teams/individuals, movies, books and the community. When we belong to something, we believe that our existence is enhanced because we belong to a certain group.

Growing up the Eighties I believed in music/artists, sports and the law. Over the last 20 years, music has done its best to disgrace itself. First off the $30 price tag for a CD. Then the Record Labels killed off the whole hard rock genre even though fans of that genre still existed. The artists that I believed in all imploded forced out of the music business by the gatekeepers.

Metallica went alternative and then went against their sharing nature when they took Napster to court.

Motley Crue went sideways when they released Vince Neil and then released a great album with John Corabi that no one heard and then when they got Vince back they went sideways again with “Generation Swine”. Then Tommy Lee left and “New Tattoo” was a bland affair. It took “The Dirt” and a couple of interesting home movies starring Tommy Lee and Vince Neil that set them back up again.

The sports team that I supported had to merge with another sporting team to become the West Tigers (I was a Tigers fan). It is now a hybrid team. Soccer (football) in Australia kept on declining in a white wash of corruption and ethnic teams.

Then after I had kids and they started to show sporting potential, I find out that the representative teams pick the best players of the parents who have the capacity to pay the $1500 to $2000 fee.

The law has shown that it was never about the law but about the people who had the capacity to pay. Copyright infringers get punishments more severe than murderers and drug dealers.

Who should I believe in now? Who should my children believe in?

Music still plays an important part of my life. The ideals of artists who have sadly departed like Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell still inspire and still matter.

The viewpoints of current artists like Robb Flynn, Dee Snider, Nikki Sixx, Randy Blythe, Bob Daisley, Dave Mustaine and many others still matter.

Technology is another enterprise that I believe in. The sharing of culture and the expansion of the public domain is another area that I believe in.

And I’m finding out that others also believe the same as me.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Treating Fans Like Shit

Create The Undeniable Song – It Will Sell

I am listening to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” today, the third studio album by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1993.

It’s funny that after all this time I still like only 3 songs from the CD, which are “Believe”, “Sister” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” in that order. There is also a track called “All My Life” that appeared on some bonus CD’s or as a B-side that is also up there. However, to hear all of the songs mentioned, I had to purchase the record label “promotional tool”; the good ol’ expensive CD.

That is why the album went multi-platinum everywhere.

Consumers of music had to purchase 10 to 14 songs, just to hear 4 to 5 songs. Of course we could have purchased the singles, however at $7 a single (that was the price in 1993), why spend $14 on two songs, when for $20 (on sale) or $27 (as a new release) you could buy the album.

I actually purchased the album for the song “Believe”. That is a great song and a dead sit hit in my book. When that lead break cuts in at the end, along with the strings, it’s goose bumps all the way.

The album went Gold (U.S) in May, 1993, three months after its release. By June, 1993, it was certified Platinum (U.S). By January, 1995, it was certified 2x Multi-Platinum. If you look at Kravitz’s most recent certification, it is for a single. How times have changed?

I don’t want to pay for a batch of songs I don’t like anymore. I didn’t used to be this way. I lived for music.

Misguided people think that piracy ruined the recorded business. What they don’t realize is that most people didn’t want the album/CD. People wanted that unique track. When the CD came and the record labels started charging us a fortune for it, albums suddenly became very long.

Instead of getting 35 to 45 minutes of music every year, we started to get 50 to 70 minutes of music every two to three years.

So the recording business saw the large profit margins and just kept on marching along with the overpriced CD’s business model, using MTV to push and promote the artists. So when people got the option to download, to cherry pick what they wanted to hear, a whole new market place was born.

We didn’t have to pay attention to what the major labels pushed on us anymore or any other label for that matter, because we started to have options. Today, we have options galore. That is why there will not be any super stars like there used to be. Competition in the market place diluted the record sales.

When I see artists like Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich complaining about Spotify, I just shake my head. Thom and Nigel have to be real damn great just to have a little bit more than a tiny audience today. The old paradigm of fans purchasing CD’s that had a lot of filler because very little content was available is over.

To stand out today, artists like Thom and Nigel have got to be incredible. Protest The Hero went via Indiegogo to raise funds for “Volition”. Their goal was $125K and they ended up getting over $341,146 USD from a fan base of 8361 fans. I gave $50. A small audience that was happy to spend money.

The report from the “London School of Economics” called “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing” hits the nail on the head. Online piracy is not hurting the music industry. It has put a dent in recorded music sales, however that was inevitable with the shift in technology, the over saturated marketplace and the years of fan abuse by pushing overpriced CD’s. It’s simple economics. There is so much supply and the fans of music demand only what is great.

There is an argument from certain song writers that since people began downloading music without paying, royalties for them have dried up. Some have even had to take full-time jobs. Big deal is what I say. If you are a songwriter, then write more songs and better ones. Copyright was never designed to be a pension fund.

The bottom line is this – if the artist creates that undeniable song, they will have no problems selling it. The song will sell itself. I parted with $27 back in 1993 for the song “Believe.”

Looking at all the certifications around the world from the industry bodies, one thing is certain. The singles are dominating. So all those metal and rock bands spending years and dollars on a long player are doing it wrong.

Even Metallica now, have single Platinum certifications from songs that were released on their first five albums.

The following songs were given a GOLD certification by the RIAA (U.S) on December 13, 2012.

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fade To Black
  • The Unforgiven
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • One
  • Enter Sandman (was also given a Platinum certification for both digital and physical singles)
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Until It Sleeps

Five albums are presented in the above list that ranges from 1983 to 2008.

We don’t need new laws to provide better protection for artist copyright. We need artists to create great tracks. We need laws that reduce copyright and puts the focus back on the Public Domain.

We don’t need to encourage internet service providers to make their customers do the right thing. We need to give customers a reason to buy.

If the customers have that reason, then they will buy.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Metal and Rock Quotes That Will Change The Way Artists Think

There is a post over at Music Think Tank called “12 Powerful Quotes That Could Change The Way You’re Promoting Your Music” that was written Lukas Camenzind.

You can read the quotes in the link. All the quotes are great.

Here are 10 of my favorite quotes that have the potential to change the way artists think (with a rock and metal flavor):

#1

“Unless you find another way of making money besides controlling copying, you will not last in the digital age.” – Ram Samudrala (in an article on the first “MP3 Summit” that appeared in the July 18, 1998 issue of Billboard.)

This quote forms part of a speech that was directed at the Record Labels in 1998. 15 years ago. The labels ignored the advice and went to war in 1999 against Napster and innovation.

Do you think they won? If anything they failed the artists that they claim to serve.

#2

“Some people get into this business for the attention, they want the babes or the money or the Porsche, but when we first got together we didn’t know that this was going to become a business. We were just friends who wanted to jam.” – Chris DeGarmo (Queensryche founder, ex guitarist and main songwriter)

Be in it for the right reasons.

#3

“Our web site is extremely interactive right now. We worked very hard on it in order to make it very fan orientated. There is so much stuff that you can do on our web site. We want to talk to fans. We want video blogs. Sell streams on there. You can talk to us personally.” – Brent Smith (Vocalist, Shinedown)

Your fans are your everything. Treat them with the respect they deserve. They are the only ones you are accountable too. Not managers, agents, labels or the press.

#4

“We owe everything we have to those of you that follow us and give us your love and devotion.” – Brent Walsh (I The Mighty band)

This is from a newer band in the scene. They get it. Fans are the only people bands and artist have to answer.

#5

“When I started, I decided to devote my life to it and not get sidetracked by all the other bullshit life has to offer.” – Cliff Burton (RIP) Bassist

There is no plan B for musicians. There is no safety net. Are you ready to fly?

#6

“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.” – Eddie Van Halen

Songs don’t have to be Verse – Pre – Chorus. You don’t need to have the same verse riff each time the verse is played. Let your ears guide you. Those bands that have had a long career broke the rules.

#7

“One must feel strongly to make others feel strongly”
Paganini

If you don’t believe in what you are doing, how will others believe in you.

#8

“We view making it like it’s a finish line. It’s not. You never know what it’s going to be. You never know if you need to keep climbing or it’s a sheer drop down the other side. Sometimes it’s a plateau. Few of us have the Ozzy, Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John careers, that go on for a lifetime. Most of ’em are a few years and thank you, you’re done.” Dee Snider, Vocalist, Twisted Sister

Making it is the start of the chase. That is when you need to keep on climbing in order to stay at the top. Vito Bratta struggled with this. Dee Snider struggled with it.

#9

“A band is a dysfunctional family. A brotherhood, a family business, and a renaissance-era-court. You’re room-mates in studio-apartment-on-wheels for years-at-a-time, 24-hours-a-day. Plus you’re in the pressure cooker of the spotlight, every move analyzed, read into, or attacked. Everybody wants something from you, everybody wants to be your friend, everybody loves you, everybody can do so-much-better-for-you-than-the-people-you-have-now. Some people try and turn you against each other, and everyone wants to take credit for your success.” – Robb Flynn (Machine Head)

The music industry is tough. Are you ready for it? Your best friend in the band will become your enemy, especially if you are the main songwriter.

#10

“To this day I don’t have a guitar idol. I have people who are my favorites.”– Randy Rhoads (RIP) Guitarist

Be influenced. Progress is derivative.

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